Cisco’s Galway R&D group spearheads future workplace

2 Sep 2010

Cisco’s 170-strong R&D operation in Galway is already making significant contributions to the networking giant’s product strategy, especially several unified communications features of Cisco Quad.

The head of the operation Mike Conroy told Siliconrepublic that a key aspect of the operation’s performance has been the contribution of Ireland’s research and science community, notably Science Foundation Ireland, NUI Galway’s DERI and Waterford Institute of Technology’s TSSG research group.

“The key has been bringing real-time communication to the workplace and make collaboration more active and social via instant messaging, video, blogs and wikis.

“But you have to remember this is the future of the workplace we’re talking about and aspects like policy and security need to be borne in mind. So we’re focusing on this along with the proliferation of devices, like the Apple iPad and Cisco Cius.

“Virtualisation and the cloud are also key to this,” Conroy said, adding it was Cisco’s aim to bring order to this exciting new universe so companies can focus on the real job at hand and be more productive.

What is Cisco Quad?

With Cisco Quad, companies can bring their existing communications, along with social networking, content management and business systems into an integrated experience for end users in browser and mobile clients, including iPhone and iPad. Lower deployment costs provide instant social networking capabilities with this open, extensible, enterprise collaboration platform.

It comes pre-integrated with enterprise communications, business applications and content management systems. In addition, it lowers overall risk by providing IT-ready social networking managed through enterprise policy.

Conroy said the R&D team in Galway, with the help of SFI and the research institutes, have provided several important elements to Cisco Quad, including presence functionality, instant messaging, persistent chatrooms and click to call functionality.

“People, networks and communities, as well as different media, will define the future of the workplace. It will no longer be about linear inboxes but communities connected by projects and comments. The key is to integrate back to the existing work environment of internal/external email. We have project teams around the world working on communities who interact through text, voice and video.

“In the future, people will subscribe to monitored subjects, such as a particular project or initiative, and participate as a community rather than a linear inbox.”

Cisco in Galway

When Cisco established its operation in Galway it located itself in a building that has capacity for 250 people. So far, the operation has 170 people and Conroy wouldn’t rule out further growth opportunities.

“We co-operate directly with R&D at Cisco’s HQ in San Jose and I have to say that SFI-funded research in Ireland is having a meaningful impact. The people on these projects are at the top of their game and are working with Cisco’s best in San Jose, we’re really pleased with this and see it as a good alignment of an area of expertise. This helps position Ireland favourably in terms of talent and university interaction with technology companies.”

Conroy said it was his objective from the start to bring the local operation to its present level of 170. “We are on track with our projects and we’re busy delivering an important aspect of Cisco’s collaboration software.

“When we sat down first we deliberately chose a building with space for over 240 people. You need to think big because in an organisation like Cisco, which has 70,000 people worldwide, scale is important.”

He believes that Galway is becoming a major technology hub, particularly around internet and collaborative working technologies. “The presence of companies like EA Games, Avaya/Nortel, SAP and NetIQ are vital.

“The issues we’ve talked a lot about in the past – such as infrastructure – are getting resolved and businesses are moving in. In difficult times there are great career opportunities for young people and we’re pleased where it’s going.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years